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Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty Hands-On: A Faster, More Aggressive Soulslike

Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty takes the well trod soulslike formula and adds interesting new mechanics like the spirit meter and morale system.

With Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, developer Team Ninja feels like it's riffing on a riff. The action game studio has already given its spin to the Soulslike genre with the Nioh games. In Wo Long, Team Ninja once again borrows some of the underpinnings of From Software's lauded series, but takes a faster, more Ninja Gaiden-like approach. It's some of the same ideas but with a different feel, which will challenge action game fans in a lot of different ways.

GameSpot got an early look at Wo Long's playable demo on PlayStation 5, which gives a snapshot of the game's combat systems. A lot of the foundation will be familiar to Soulslike fans--enemies hit hard and are tough to kill, often sporting unblockable or uninterruptible animations. Whenever you stop to rest at a checkpoint, enemies respawn, forcing you to fight them again. Healing is limited to a small set of flasks you carry, and using them takes a very long time, leaving you open to attack. Most fights come down to analyzing or memorizing enemy attack patterns so you can exploit weaknesses and avoid taking an abundance of damage.

But as mentioned, Wo Long takes a much faster and more aggressive approach to that foundation than most other Soulslike games, making it most comparable to something like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Wo Long focuses on Chinese martial arts, and thus, much of its gameplay is about speedy strikes and redirecting your opponent's force. Its biggest adjustment from similar games, though, is that it drops the usual stamina gauge that dictates how many moves you can make before you stall out.

Instead, Wo Long sports a "spirit" gauge, which dictates how much you can block or dodge, as well as special abilities, like martial arts or magical "wizardry" attacks. The spirit gauge is less of a limitation than it is a gamble, though. The gauge starts at zero in the center, with a negative and positive side. When you take damage, block attacks, dodge, or use your special abilities, you "lose" spirit, so the gauge pushes into the negative. If your gauge fully fills up on the negative side, a hit from an enemy will stagger you, leaving you vulnerable for a long time.